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Thread: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

  1. #31
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Dragon's Life (Ryuko ichidai) (Japan, 1964) [VoD] - 2.5/5
    An early ninkyo film from before the genre had truly established its form. Koji Tsuruta plays an honourable outlaw who saves an older man from an ambush. It turns out the man is the head of a hard working clan appointed to a railway construction project. A ruthless yakuza gang is also trying to get their share of the project and attempts to sabotage the work. After the old man dies, his son (Sonny Chiba) and daughter (Junko Fuji) try to complete the project. Tsuruta joins them while also falling in love with a local woman working in a bar (after all, Tsuruta always was more of a lover than his stoic colleague Takakura).

    Dragon's Life is not bad - it has some pretty good scenes - but it tends to lack the clear focus of the best ninkyo films. Fans of the genre will immediately recognize the structure and many story devices used here, though, including an honourable man (Shigeru Amachi) working for the villain clan but in love with Fuji. Interestingly enough, the film contains partial female nudity, which was a rarity in a ninkyo film, as well as in any film made as early as this (as for the Japanese film industry in general, 1964 was the turning point, but obviously the ninkyo genre did not follow this trend). Sonny Chiba plays another "son role" – he did quite a few of them in the early/mid 60s – but he doesn't especially stand out. It's not his fault, the role just isn't very memorable.

    * Original title: Ryuko ichidai (竜虎一代)
    * Director: Tsuneo Kobayashi
    * Chiba's role: Small supporting role
    * Film availability: VoD (Japan) (No subtitles)

    Tsuruta




    Chiba


    Chiba and Fuji


    Chiba and Fuji


    See the dancer in the background? You'll get to see a little bit more in the film.




    Final walk. Ninkyo fans know this type of scene very well.

  2. #32
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Meiji Underworld - Yakuza G-Men (Japan, 1965) [VoD] – 2/5
    "G-Men" was something of a buzz word in the 1960s Japanese action/crime cinema. It's was a popular slang term for Government Men or undercover agents. Toei especially liked to use it whenever the storyline had something to do with policemen going undercover. In this film it's the Japanese gangster Hiroki Matsukata who is forced to work for the police to find out who robbed a truck full of gold. Of course, there is very little doubt about who did it as soon as yakuza film baddie Bin Amatsu walks into the frame. Director Eiichi Kudo was better known for his samurai classics like 13 Assassins. This early 20th century set gangster film is not especially badly made, but it is strangely unmoving. It’s neither very original nor that stylish, although the few action scenes it has are entertaining. Sonny Chiba has a small and forgettable supporting role as one of the detectives, with about 10-15 minutes of screen time.

    * Original title: Yakuza tai G Men: Meiji ankokugai (やくざGメン 明治暗黒街)
    * Director: Eiichi Kudo
    * Chiba's role: Small supporting role
    * Film availability: VoD (Japan) (No subtitles)



    Matsukata


    Amatsu


    Chiba









  3. #33
    Administrator Ian Jane's Avatar
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    He looks so baby faced in some of these early movies! Thanks for posting this.
    Rock! Shock! Pop!

  4. #34
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Jane View Post
    He looks so baby faced in some of these early movies! Thanks for posting this.
    Quoting my friend "it wasn't until the 70s he developed handsome manly looks"

    I think many girls would disagree

  5. #35
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Code of Ruffians (Japan, 1965) [VoD] – 2/5
    Strictly by-the-numbers yakuza drama about a yakuza clan gone straight, now working on a construction project in the mountains, and of course bullied by an evil gang. Koji Tsuruta stars; Sonny Chiba has a smallish and unremarkable role as a young, rich construction project boss, who learns something about the realities of life outside urban centres. Takashi Shimura and Junko Fuji appear in supporting roles. There were quite a few of these kind of movies back in the mid 60s, including some others featuring Chiba (e.g. Dragon's Life, 1964; and North Sea Chivalry, 1967). They made an interesting point of how much of the modern Japan was supposedly built by yakuza clans. They usually emphasized how the former clans had given up on criminal life, and consequently contained only limited amounts of hard boiled "gangster cinema". In this one, too, one has to wait until the final 15 minutes before Tsuruta goes into the yakuza mode. Unfortunately the film isn't all that involving. Director Yusuke Watanabe would make his biggest hit two decades later with the beloved action/drama/comedy Keiji Monogatari (1982).

    This film probably has another English title as well, which I'd love to share with everyone if God was kind enough to tell me which page in Chris D's yakuza film book I should be looking at. If anyone has found it, please let me know.

    * Original title: Buraikan jingi (無頼漢仁義)
    * Director: Yusuke Watanabe
    * Chiba's role: Small supporting role
    * Film availability: VoD (Japan) (No subtitles)

    Tsuruta




    Chiba




    Shimizu


    Junko Fuji




    Tsuruta finally in yakuza mode

  6. #36
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Sing to Those Clouds (Japan, 1965) [DVD] - 3/5
    The success of Here Because of You (1964) produced a whole bunch of loosely related follow-ups, all musically oriented youth films starring the lovely Chiyoko Honma. She's a singing high school girl again, in the middle of a truly complicated love/hate/friendship mess where her former best friend's rebellious brother (Jiro Okazaki) has a crush on her, while she has a crush on her teacher, while the ex-friend is trying to sabotage her happiness, and then there's a few other guys with a crush on her as well. The film's first half is a bit too loose with somewhat random scenarios, but it works pretty well when it follows the young rebel Okazaki. Oddly enough, the real co-star, pop singer Teruhiko Saigo, gets the shorter straw just like Kazuo Funaki did in Here Because of You.

    Sonny Chiba is a teacher again, although he's a literature teacher this time. That doesn't stop him from catching underage smokers and making them jump the rope as punishment until they drop from exhaustion, though. The role is smaller than last time, but nevertheless very enjoyable. The film is not quite on par with the better written and catchier Here Because of You, but director Koji Ota helms the film with just enough style and inserts many musical scenes, including a out-of-nowhere appearance by pop idol group Johnny's. Once again, the film is charmingly old fashioned and very 60s. Filmed in the beautiful seaside landscapes of Bōsō Peninsula.

    * Original title: Ano kumo ni utaou (あの雲に歌おう)
    * Director: Koji Ota
    * Chiba's role: Small supporting role (but not that small)
    * Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles)

    Chiyoko Honma and Teruhiko Saigo


    Young rebel Jiro Okazaki


    Chiba sensei


    Don't screw with Chiba


    Or he'll make you jump the rope


    Johnny's (there's more in the tree)


    Okazaki threw the other guy in the water


    Seaside drama


    Teruhiko Saigo singing on his way home

  7. #37
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Speaking of musically oriented youth films, Chiba played the starring role in Dash to the Sun (1966). Unfortunately I've never been able to see this film.


    And completely unrelated, here are the original posters for two Chiba film I have reviewed before and quite like: Yakuza's Song (1963) and Kaigun (1963).



    Finally, here's the original poster and two stills for Dragon's Life (1964), which I also reviewed a few posts back.




  8. #38
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Abashiri Prison 4: Northern Seacoast Story (Japan, 1965) [35mm] – 2.5/5
    The 4th film in the long running Abashiri Prison series that cemented Ken Takakura's status as the biggest yakuza film star of the 60s. The 1965 original movie established the formula: Takakura is a punkish but ultimately honourable tough guy whose path always leads back to the Abashiri Prison in the snowy Hokkaido that characterized the first film. Director Teruo Ishii helmed them in contemporary style that borrowed elements from ninkyo yakuza films but still retained a modern feel. The films proved so popular Ishii had to deliver up to new 4 films a year, whether or not it was winter, and whether or not they were able to film in Hokkaido.

    Northern Seacoast Story takes the story back to the snowy Hokkaido after a couple of warmer entries (of which the 3rd movie was admittedly one of the best in the series). Unfortunately it's not among the series highlights. The film opens with silly comedy routines with two gay prisoners before turning into a yakuza film variation of Stagecoach (1939) when Takakura is set free and he takes a job to drive a certain truck through Hokkaido. The cargo is cargo a runaway teenager (Reiko Ohara), a mother accompanied by sick child, and two ruthless criminals (Tooru Abe and Takashi Fujiki). It’s hardly an original movie, but the solid genre cast, jazz soundtrack and winter landscapes provide enough entertainment to warrant a viewing for fans. Sonny Chiba plays a small supporting role as an inmate with health problems. His character initiates the plot, but is only featured in the early scenes.

    * Original title: Abashiri bangaichi: Hokkai hen (網走番外地 北海篇)
    * Director: Teruo Ishii
    * Chiba's role: Small supporting role
    * Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles), Toei Blu-Ray (Japan) (No subtitles)






  9. #39
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Golden Bat (Japan, 1966) [DVD] – 2/5
    Japan's first ever super hero, who debuted in the early 1930s kamishibai (narrated "paper theatre", returns in a live action film starting Sonny Chiba. Unfortunately Chiba is not playing the skull-faced (rubber masked) hero Golden Bat, but a bearded scientist who discovers Atlantis, where Golden Bat is resting. His help is needed against manically laughing evil aliens (including one who looks like a werewolf) who intend to destroy the earth. It’s nice to see Chiba given a charismatic authority role at this relatively early stage of his career, but frankly he doesn’t have that much to do in the film even though he's the leading actor. The film has its entertaining campy moments, but it could be more fun. At 73 minutes it feels a bit longer than it really is.

    * Original title: Ogon batto (黄金バット)
    * Director: Hajime Sato
    * Chiba's role: Starring role
    * Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles)

    Chiba!


    Chiba!


    Golden Bat!


    Evil aliens!


    Werewolf alien!








    Last edited by Takuma; 01-23-2016 at 01:47 AM.

  10. #40
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Here's a pretty cool poster for Golden Bat


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